1) WHO MADE THE MENORAH?
OPINIONS: Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael teaches that Moshe Rabeinu had difficulty with three things: constructing the Menorah, establishing the new month, and recognizing the forbidden species of Sheratzim -- until Hash-m showed these three things to him with His finger, as it were.
What exactly was Moshe Rabeinu's difficulty with constructing the Menorah?
(a) RASHI explains that when the Gemara says that Moshe Rabeinu "had difficulty" with these three things, it means that he did not know how the Menorah was supposed to look.
(b) The TZELACH asks that according to Rashi's explanation, the Gemara should not say that Moshe Rabeinu "had difficulty" with these three things, but rather it should say that Moshe Rabeinu "did not know" these three things. Saying that he "had difficulty" with them implies that he understood the basic requirements of each Halachah, but he was merely uncertain about specific details which Hash-m clarified for him.
The Tzelach explains instead that it was not the design of the Menorah that Moshe Rabeinu did not know. Rather, Moshe Rabeinu was bothered by a question: how can a mere mortal construct such a Menorah? It seemed to Moshe Rabeinu to be an impossible feat to build a Menorah out of a single block of gold.
The Tzelach, however, does not explain how Hash-m's response resolved Moshe Rabeinu's dilemma. The Gemara earlier says that Hash-m showed Moshe Rabeinu a Menorah of fire, which does not explain how Hash-m answered his question of how it could be possible to construct such a Menorah out of a single block of gold.
However, it is not Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael who says that Hash-m showed Moshe Rabeinu a Menorah of fire. Rather, the Gemara earlier is quoting Rebbi Yosi b'Rebbi Yehudah in a Beraisa. Rebbi Yosi in the Beraisa does not agree with Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael, because he mentions that Hash-m showed Moshe Rabeinu not only a Menorah of fire, but also an Aron and a Shulchan of fire. According to Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael, Moshe Rabeinu had difficulty only with the Menorah, but not with any of the other vessels of the Mishkan. (This is evident from the two different sources quoted. Rebbi Yosi b'Rebbi Yehudah's source is the verse, "u'Re'eh va'Aseh b'Savnisam Asher Atah Mar'eh ba'Har" (Shemos 25:40), which refers to the Menorah as well as to the Aron and Shulchan, while Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael's source is the verse, "v'Zeh Ma'aseh ha'Menorah" (Bamidbar 8:4), which refers only to the Menorah.)
It seems that Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael understands that Moshe Rabeinu did not understand how to construct the Menorah, as the Tzelach explains, and Hash-m showed him how to make it. This is also implied by the preceding Gemara, which describes how Gavriel clothed himself in the clothing of an artisan and showed Moshe Rabeinu the way to construct the Menorah. If Moshe Rabeinu's difficulty was merely how the Menorah was supposed to look, then it would not have been necessary for Gavriel to don the clothing of an artisan. The opinion that Moshe Rabeinu was showed a Menorah of fire is the opinion of Rebbi Yosi b'Rebbi Yehudah; according to him, Moshe Rabeinu needed to be shown a Menorah (as well as an Aron and a Shulchan) in orer to know how they were supposed to appear.
There is another difficulty with the Gemara, however. The Gemara implies that Moshe Rabeinu's difficulty about how the Menorah was supposed to look (according to Rashi) or how the Menorah was to be constructed (according to the Tzelach) was resolved when Hash-m showed the Menorah to Moshe with His finger. However, the Midrash (cited by Rashi to Shemos 25:31) says that Moshe Rabeinu was unable to construct the Menorah, and Hash-m told him to throw the block of gold into the fire and the Menorah would be formed by itself (as the verse says, "Te'aseh ha'Menorah"). This Midrash clearly seems to disagree with the Gemara here, which implies that Moshe Rabeinu constructed the Menorah himself after Hash-m showed him how.
The MIZRACHI (to Shemos ibid.) reconciles this contradiction by citing another Midrash. The Midrash says that after Hash-m showed Moshe Rabeinu a Menorah of fire, he still had difficulty understanding how to construct it, and, therefore, Hash-m told him to throw the gold into the fire and it would be formed by itself. Accordingly, both accounts are true: first, Moshe Rabeinu was shown how to make the Menorah, and then he threw the gold into the fire when he still had difficulty.
This answer, however, is not consistent with the words of the Gemara. The Gemara says that Moshe Rabeinu had difficulty "until Hash-m showed him with His finger," implying that Moshe's difficulty was resolved once Hash-m showed him how to make the Menorah.
Perhaps the apparent contradiction between the Midrash and the Gemara may be reconciled based on the Midrash cited by RAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY shlit'a (in the Milu'im to his commentary on the Beraisa d'Meleches ha'Mishkan). He cites a Midrash that states that Hash-m told Moshe, "You pound with the hammer, and the Menorah will form by itself." If the Menorah formed by itself, then why did Moshe Rabeinu need to pound with a hammer?
The answer is that Moshe Rabeinu (or Betzalel, according to another Midrash) was supposed to perform the actions of constructing the Menorah. For this purpose it was necessary to show him how the Menorah was to be made. His actions, though, were not enough to produce the Menorah. Divine assistance was necessary. Hence, the actual work was performed by Moshe Rabeinu, but the Menorah took form by itself. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)
2) THE SECRETS OF CREATION
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that when Moshe Rabeinu asked Hash-m why He was giving the Torah through him and not through Rebbi Akiva who was destined to reach higher levels of understanding than even Moshe himself would ever reach, Hash-m answered him, "Shtok; Kach Alsah b'Machshavah Lefanai" -- "Be quiet; such is my intention." When Hash-m showed Moshe Rabeinu the tragic end that Rebbi Akiva met, Moshe asked how could this be Rebbi Akiva's reward for all of his learning. Again, Hash-m answered him, "Be quiet. Such is my intention."
What is the meaning behind Hash-m's answer, "Kach Alsah b'Machshavah Lefanai," and why did He give this response specifically to these two questions of Moshe?
ANSWER: The MAHARAL explains that although Moshe Rabeinu was the greatest of all Nevi'im and certainly was on a higher spiritual level that Rebbi Akiva, nevertheless each one served a very different purpose in the world. Moshe Rabeinu's purpose in the world was to bring Torah to Olam ha'Zeh, to sanctify and purify the material world. He purified his own body to such an extent that he was able to comprehend the word of Hash-m "b'Aspaklarya ha'Me'irah," with a clarity akin to a clear lens that allows bright light to shine through. This is why it was Moshe Rabeinu's mission to bring the Torah to this world and make it accessible to mortal man. Since, in this respect, his purpose was this-worldly, there were certain levels of understanding that were beyond his capacity to achieve. These levels are hinted to by the crowns above the letters in the Sefer Torah. Only a person who is not part of this world, but who is of the world "above," can comprehend those parts of the Torah. Rebbi Akiva was such a person. Although he lived physically in this world, his purpose was to achieve closeness with the spiritual world; his essence was not to be part of this world. Accordingly, he was able to understand things that a person whose essence is of this world cannot comprehend. This is not because Rebbi Akiva was on a higher level than Moshe Rabeinu; Rebbi Akiva was not able to purify himself to the great degree that Moshe Rabeinu did. Rather, his essence and purpose was different. The crowns above the letters hint to the great levels of understanding that can be achieved only by one whose essence is not of this world at all.
Why, though, was Moshe Rabeinu created differently from Rebbi Akiva? The answer to this type of question is beyond human comprehension. Man cannot know the secrets of creation. Hence, "be quiet, for Kach Alsah b'Machshavah Lefanai."
Similarly, Moshe Rabeinu's question about Rebbi Akiva's tragic death reflected Moshe's essence. Since Moshe Rabeinu was part of this world, the world was not inherently contrary to his existence. His corporal body was never tortured or subject to great suffering. Rebbi Akiva, in contrast, was not part of this world, so to speak, and thus his essence stood in stark opposition to the nations of the world, whose sole aim is fulfillment in Olam ha'Zeh. Consequently, his corporal body was tortured in this world.
The question arises, why did Hash-m create Rebbi Akiva in this way? Again, the answer is that man cannot understand the secrets of creation, "Kach Alsah b'Machshavah Lefanai." (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)
3) THE DIFFICULTY INVOLVED IN DOING TESHUVAH
QUESTION: The Gemara explains that the gap in the left leg of the letter "Heh" represents the opportunity that Hash-m provides for a sinner to do Teshuvah and come back into His world. The Gemara asks that the sinner should be able to return to the world through the open part of the bottom of the "Heh," and it should not need an additional opening. The Gemara answers that one is unable to enter the same way he exited, and thus he needs help in doing Teshuvah. He must "climb up," as it were, and enter the additional opening at the side of the "Heh." When he begins to climb and he shows that he wants to repent, then he receives Divine assistance.
The Gemara does not explain why one cannot return through the same opening through which he exited, and why one needs help in doing Teshuvah.
(a) RASHI explains that the Yetzer ha'Ra prevents a sinner from re-entering the world. He needs Divine assistance, which he gets only by showing that he genuinely wants to repent.
(b) The MAHARSHA explains the Gemara based on the words of the RAMBAM (in Shemoneh Perakim). The Rambam writes that a person who has a bad Midah and seeks to correct it cannot merely change his Midah by choosing to act differently. He must change his Midah by doing things that are the exact opposite of the bad Midah. For example, if a person has a trait of miserliness, he cannot change this Midah unless he gives to the needy more than he is required to give. After he acts in this way for some time, his Midah will become balanced, and he can begin giving the normal amount to the needy.
Based on the Rambam's words, the Maharsha explains the Gemara here as follows. Transgression of a specific sin is a matter of a person's free choice. If he gives in to temptation and transgresses, he can do Teshuvah by regretting what he did, abandoning the sin, and resolving not to do it again. However, having a bad Midah is much more severe. To change a bad Midah, it does not suffice merely to act in the proper way. Rather, one must "climb up on the side" by conducting himself with the opposite extreme. Only then can he correct his bad Midah and eventually return to the middle path.
This implies that in order to correct a bad Midah, one needs special assistance, since he must act in an extreme way that is contrary to his nature.
This is what the letter "Heh" signifies. One who falls out of the world, through sinning with a bad Midah, must work hard and climb up in order to do Teshuvah and re-enter Hash-m's world. He cannot go back through the same way that he fell, for he must conduct himself with the opposite extreme. For this he needs Divine assistance. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)